Thursday, September 30, 2010

2010-35 Price Utah to Moab to Cottonwood Arizona

Price Utah
Moab Utah
Cottonwood AZ

Nine Mile Canyon
Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail
Dead Horse Ranch State Park (Work Camping)

Campground:  OK Rv Park, Moab.  A Passport America park.  ½ off.  $15 + $1 is using a/c.  It’s about 5 miles from town.  Well maintained park, with free cable tv (lots of channels), full hookups, easy pull thru sites.  Some shade trees, but mainly sunny sites.  Ps: Sept and Oct are really busy so call ahead for reservations.

Campground:  Goulding’s Camp Park.  $25 dry camping.  Sites with full hookups were full up.  I believe they cost around $45 per night, w/cable tv.  Indoor pool, museum and movie memorabilia near the lodge.  Across from Monument Valley.

What a fun and interesting drive from Evanston WY to Price Utah.  The canyon’s, mesas and mountain ranges kept changing constantly.  As I passed through Provo Utah, I headed into an awesome canyon with huge windmill generators at the head of it.

In Price, I discovered the Nine Mile Canyon, which contains the longest gallery of petroglyphs in the world.  It’s over 40 miles long.  The canyon was accidentally name the same as a nine mile creek in the area and has retained the name ever since.  I started my adventure early in the morning, knowing I’d be making many stops along the way.  A couple miles into the journey, a met up with a family of three who were getting a free guided tour by Ivan “the terrible”, though I can tell you he wasn’t.  Ivan is part of a group that is trying their best to preserve this valuable resource.

Nice to be able to join a group and be welcomed along as we all explored the canyons and rock art.  I misplaced my brochure where I wrote everyone’s name on it, so I’ll just have to say the daughter is a college professor in the area and Ivan (retired) has taken one of the daughters classes in philosophy.

When we went into the Big Daddy Canyon, where much of the petroglyphs are, storage granaries and a number of ranches we even saw a good sized gas processing plant.  So needless to say, this huge canyon is still vibrant and active day to day.

Each site I’ve visited seems to have unique drawings that are no where else.  Big Daddy Canyon has one petroglyph of a pregnant buffalo.  Now I would have never see it, as it was around the side of a canyon wall and one has to squeeze between a barbed wire fence.  Ivan of course knew about it and how to find it.  Ivan also explained which symbols are related to the Hopi Indians, the last tribe to possibly write on these walls.

Interesting how the people interested in preserving the rock art are going about trying to preserve it.  As some of it is being damaged by dust from the gravel and dirt roads being mixed with the fumes of diesel fueled trucks.  I believe they would like to see the commercial mining trucks removed.  Ivan even suggested that another road be re-built to accommodate the commercial truck traffic.  I see it as a simpler solution.  Pave the roads going into the canyon.  That step alone would stop the dust coming up from the dirt roads.  It would aid the half dozen ranches, the mining and gas company vehicles as well as make it much easier for tourist to visit the rock art.  Of course, paved roads could also bring in many more tourists who have the potential to do damage to the rock art as well.  Ivan’s keen eye even noted a new bullet hole in one of the rock walls above the petroglyphs.  His group cleaned a small section of wall and with months, the section was covered with dust.  Which also is covering many of the drawings…

After a full day of touring this fascinating canyon, I head on down to Moab.  I’ve dropped altitude from about 7,000 feet down to 4,000 feet and it’s once again getting hot out.  Mid 80’s today, high 80‘s tomorrow.  Moab is not the kind of place I’d care to be in the summer months.  It can get very hot in this arid dry climate.

I’ve been to Arches NP, which is so worth touring, however, since there are so many other sites to see in the area, I’ll be bypassing Arches this time around.  One site I found is called Mills Canyon Dinosaur Trail.  To be able to see dinosaur bones still in the rock and rubble before being excavated is a new experience for me.  As I walk around the loop trail with it’s many signs describing the various thigh bones and hip bones and toes I have a much better appreciation of what an archeologist has to do to get these bones out of the ground.  It has to be a lot of work.  So here I am walking where dinosaurs walked in what was once a marshy wet land area near a lake.  Now that’s a bit hard to grasp when I’m sweating in a hot arid desert type setting.

A note on Moab UT.  They have some great restaurants, Like the Brewery and the Moab Diner.  And anyone who’s into ATV’s, ORV’S, biking, boat rides on the muddy Colorado River, this is the place for you.

I’m spending a day in the Monument Valley area, at the original Goulding’s Trading Post.  It’s now a full lodge, museum and campground.  As I traveled along hwy 163 through Mexican Hat and onto Canyon Lands, the western scenery that we’ve all scene in countless westerns with John Wayne on up through Back to the Future III, comes to life over every ridge of red sandstone.

Wild horses roam along the open range, majestic shaped sandstone structures with names like Mitchell Butte, Sentinel Mesa, Castle Butte, King on the Throne and so many others punch above the landscape creating long shadows with their presence.

One learns so much about the land and the people to came here to make a living.  Like Harry and Leone (Mike) his wife who were able to buy some land across from Monument Valley after the Paiute Indians relocated their reservation to another local.  After setting up the trading post in the 1920’s all went down hill with the great depression.  Not only for the trading post but for the local Indians as well.  Harry heard about a Hollywood studio scouting for places out west for a movie.  So he and Mike took off for Hollywood with the last of their money, $60 to see if they could get Monument valley as a setting for the movie.  He met John Ford, the famous director and of course the film was made out here.  Along with many more afterwards.

It helped establish Monument Valley for movies and a tourist destination.  A German photographer ended up here about the same time and his photography of the area helped to promote the area as well.  Interesting, the German photographer was living in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power, and at one point, he hit Hitler with a tomato.  Needless to say, as Hitler grew in power, the German realized he’d better get out before you know what happened to him.  Fascinating stories that seem to link so many disparate things in the world into one.  Showing how we really are all linked in some way.

The sad news for all my readers is that I’ve arrived in Cottonwood, where I’ll be camp hosting at Dead Horse Ranch State Park once again.  So unfortunately, unless I can come up with some adventures while staying here, the Roving Reports have come to an abrupt end for the season.

I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me to have you along on my journey.  When I write a report, I often think about each and every one of you and how you might react to a story.  Often putting in bits that I think might interest you.

I hope you have learned something along the way and hopefully had a laugh or two as well.

Until I start up my adventures again,  Safe travels and adventures to where ever you go.

Friday, September 24, 2010

2010-34 Grand Teton NP, Wyoming


Grand Teton
Jackson Wyoming

rugged scenery before heading to Teton

Campground:  Gros Ventre, Grand Teton NP.  $20 dry camping.  Basic bathrooms, water and dump station up front.  Lots of wildlife in the area and they often come through the campground including buffalo and moose.  Three over the air Tv stations available.

Campground:  Walmart, Evanston Wy.  $0.  The store is tucked away behind all these other big buildings.  The parking lot stretches out.  Filled with cars close to Walmart, semi trucks in the outer lot and by evening a helter-skelter array of campers.  Very noisy from highway traffic, trains and semi’s coming and going.

Campground:  Walmart, Price Utah.  $0. Ok, I’m getting hooked on free parking.  Only two campers at this point in the parking lot.  

After a couple of days of enjoying the hot mineral pools of Thermopolis, I still love the name, it was time to head on over to the Grand Teton NP.  Just south of Thermopolis is the Wind River Canyon.  One of the most spectacular deep canyons I’ve ever traveled through.  Lots of pullouts to ohh and ahh over as I descended into the canyon and through three tunnels.  The Wind river flowing over rocks, crashing and churning as it wound it’s way through the canyon.  Opposite were the train tracks and multiple tunnels for it that looked more like mining entrances than tunnels for a train.

High country, before going over a pass into Grand Teton

I had to climb Togwotee Pass on my way into the Grand Teton valley with an elevation of 9,658 feet.  Sure glad I had the truck serviced before this part of the journey.  Awesome views as the cottonwood, some aspen and others are all turning a golden yellow.  Even the low scrub along the valley floors and creeks have turned a golden yellow creating a mosaic pattern on the landscape .  Then of course, there had to be road construction.  At 9,000 feet they had completely torn up 5 miles of roadway and were feverishly rebuilding the roadway.  That of course translates to 5 miles of mud, dirt and rockie roadway following a lead car through the construction zone, past huge earth movers, graders and trucks hauling dirt.

Grand Teton approx. 60 miles away

Finally making it over the pass, views of the Grand Tetons come into view.  Pulling off to enjoy the view in a chilly 50 degrees was well worth the stop.  And of course taking a ton of pictures hoping to catch the grandeur of the scenery.  

Having arrived at Gros Ventre, I sent up camp on an open plain surrounded by sagebrush and cottonwoods  all golden yellow off in the distance.  As I had asked for a sunny location so my solar panels would work their best.  My first night in camp, the temperature plunged quickly after dark.  My gas furnace ran constantly throughout the night and when I woke the next morning, it was a bone chilling 25 degrees.  

I quickly got dressed and headed out shortly thereafter for my meeting with the manager of the campgrounds in Grand Teton NP.  Along the 30 plus miles to the other end of the park, I saw a wolf out in on the range, a huge herd of buffalo crossing through the campground and three big eared mule deer.  

It’s a contractor who performs the work for the national park and I was to check out the requirements for the camp host job.  I had been told they expected one to work 40 to 48 hours a week.  The manager verified that was correct and we discussed some of the duties.  This is a full paying position and a campsite is also provided, though I believe one has to pay a small amount for the monthly campsite.

Now I can’t remember working that many hours since I was about 20 years old and that only lasted one year.  I had worked as an assistant manager of a 7-11 and the work was non stop.  It nearly killed me.  This job, the work would be less intense perhaps, but still working a possible 48 hours a week is a bit much.  After all, I am retired.  

Though I absolutely love the area, I believe I will decline the job.  It would also involve working for 5 months and that is way too long of a commitment for a work camp job.  Since I will hit the magic “62” this coming July, (I’m really about 45 in spirit anyway) I will be able to come back to the area and stay in the NP campgrounds for half price.  Yes, that would be $10 a night.  Usually with a limit of 14 days at each campsite, I could easily enjoy a month in the Tetons, and perhaps another month in Yellowstone, just a stones throw from Grand Teton.  There are benefits to getting older.

In the mean time, I’m enjoying the most wonderful fall days here in Jackson Hole Wy.  Although the nights are cold the days warm up to 70 and with those rich blue skies and sunny days who could ask for more.  I love the cottonwood and aspen in their royal gold fall colors.  I believe I timed it perfectly.  I had never seen aspen change color and they are just stunning, as I knew they would be.

And of course I’ve already committed to doing a bit of camp host work for Dead Horse Ranch St Pk in Az in Oct and possibly Nov.  Now there’s a good camp host job.  4 hour work days for which I get a campsite free.  And  of course I get to meet up again with some great people who work and live in the area.  So from here I’ll be boogying across the rest of Wyoming, Utah and into Arizona in short order.  

Along the way, I’ve been reading a Louis L’Amour book, The Lonesome Gods.  Quite an epic tale of a family heading out west and into California.  

I spent my last day in Jackson, it is not Jackson Hole as many people think.  Only the surrounding area is called Jackson Hole.  The town is on the edge of two ski areas and contains almost 30 art galleries.  Along with some pretty upscale jewelry stores and shops with everything from western wear, western inspired rugs to the numerous T-shirt shops.  Tons of good restaurants to try out like the Cadillac Ranch. With a nice square park setting in the center of town.  I talked to one gallery owner and suggested his busiest time of year must be in the winter with all the skiers in town.  He informed me that the busiest time of year is the short summer months of  late June, July and August.  Said most skiers were of the professional type since both ski areas were on some pretty vertical mountains.  Meaning you have to be a pretty good skier to come here.  So the skiers stay on the hills all day and rarely come into town except to dine.  In the winter thousands of Elk migrate to a preserve right on the edge of town and one can take sleigh rides through the herds of elk.  Can you imagine being surrounded by picturesque snow covered mountains on a sleigh ride.

I’ll be heading through Utah on my way into Arizona and from what I’ve seen so far, the state has some pretty awesome mountain ranges and valleys in-between.  All the fall colors are out, maybe not as spectacular as back east, but still a joy to see the reds and bright yellows of fall.  Heading through one large canyon outside of Provo Utah, a doze huge wind generators were at the mouth of the large canyon.  Constantly taking advantage of the breeze being funneled through.  Many of those valleys are heavily irrigated and the farm lands are rich and bountiful.  

My next report will be from Price Utah, Moab and beyond.  Keep the adventure alive within you and explore something new each day. 

more photo's posted on Picasa.  

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2010-33 Thermopolis Wyoming, A BONUS REPORT


A Bonus Report

Thermopolis Wyoming
Legend Rock Petroglyphs

Campground:  Fountain of Youth Rv Park, Thermopolis.  $33 per night, full hookups.  No Tv reception.  Large mineral hot spring pools included in cost of camping. Older campground. Small concrete pad and picnic table at each site. Spectacular view of red rock cliffs and surrounding mountains.  Trains, but no whistle blowing.

By golly by gosh, what a spectacular drive from Cody Wy to Thermopolis.  Broad vistas of open range, rugged grass and sage covered landscapes that change with each passing cloud and splash of sunshine.  Pronghorn standing in groups or alone like statues on these wild range lands.  A lonely black cow grazing of the dry fall grasses.

As I drive down the hill into Thermopolis, 3 mule deer walk out into the road, with not a care in the world.  The next day as I drive back into town, their they are again.  Maybe they’ve been hired to greet newcomers.  And of course with a name like Thermopolis, I just had to put it on my list of places to visit.  The name alone sounds so Orwellian doesn’t it?  

And here I am after arriving at the Fountain of Youth.  You may not recognize me the next time you see me .  These campers are serious about their hot springs bathing, as I see folks walking to the pools early in the morning, midday and into the evening.  Often going back several times each day.  The owner sings his heart out in the evening while we paddle around the large heated pools.  


As you know, for those of you who have followed my travels, I have quite an interest in the Native Indian rock art.  While touring the Thermopolis area, I discovered that they have a great state park called Legend Rock.  It’s about 20 miles north of Thermopolis. Down a road pointing to Hamilton Dome, across open range land, right onto a well maintained dirt road ( have I mentioned how dirty my truck has become lately), left down an unmarked dirt road and through a gate I had to sign for access earlier and obtain a key to enter.

The State/BLM has built a small new visitor center which isn’t quiet open yet and they also have hookups for one “work camper”.  Should probably be completed in a couple more months.  Might make a neat location for anyone looking to sign up for a remote work camp experience.

The site contains over 300 petroglyphs, some being over 11,000 years old to as new as 100 years old.  Legend Rock contains Dinwoody petroglyphs that are only in Big Horn and the Wind River Basins.  They contain some most interesting features such as unusual amount of toes or fingers and figures that are upside down.  Some containing human figures with interior lines in the torso.  These are features seldom if ever seen at other sites.

I had the place to myself and it was neat to experience an historical site in silence.  With just the soft whistle of a breeze occasionally or the sound of water flowing over rocks along the Cottonwood creek.  The sun was bright yet the air was a chilly 48 degrees this morning.  Though it felt warmer up against the rock cliffs where the petroglyphs have been etched.  Giving me a chance to experience the warmth that the Indians enjoyed when they built their winter dwellings along the south facing cliffs.

Climbing up to the cliff walls, I was able to get within inches of the petroglyphs.  Seeing the deep chipping action used to create some of the glyphs, others were much finer and barely showed where the chipping away of stone had occurred.  They were so smooth and fully pecked away as to look smoothly formed figures.  I was intrigued by the figure that was portrayed upside down and some of the human forms that seemed to stretch and have multiple arms or unusual headdresses on.  

This is the kind of exploration I enjoy.  Seeing an ancient Indian art form from 11,000 years ago, still speaking to us today and having the time to contemplate those who walked this land thousands of years ago.

The following morning, as I soaked once again in the hot mineral springs pool, steam rising up into the chilly morning air, the owner, a cowboy preacher came on stage and sang a few “non-denominational” songs.  Mostly from my point of view anyway, poorly written songs, but done with good guitar backgrounds.  Then a preachy sermon on not condemning others.  And how each of us hears the same thing, yet interprets it in our own way.  Spoke a lot about his own life, making a lot of money early on and being quite arrogant but not knowing it at the time.  (He owns a number of businesses in town including the Fountain of Youth Rv park.)  So he used his life as a reflection of change and growth along the way.

Folks either sat in chairs around the stage or continued to swim in the pool, some lined up along the sides to listen more intently.  Others playing quietly with their kids in the hot mineral pools.  The sun sparkling across the blue waters and the sky.

I wander off after a while as the lessons he is preaching about just don’t seem to resonate with where I am on this sunny crystal clear day.  I feel very in tune with the natural surroundings and life feels very good.

And I haven’t even mentioned the Hot Springs State Park, where one can take a plunge in the hot springs for free as well as entry into the park for free.  It having been a part of the local Indian Reservation.  When the Indians sold this section off, they insisted that the springs always be free to get into.  And so it is to this day.

And, and even more, I visited the famous Wyoming Dinosaur Center, which has the largest Supersaurus on display at 106 feet long.  Weighed about 40 tons.  But more than that, the displays chronicle the evolution of our planet for single cell organisms on up through the ages of dinosaurs.  An excellent exhibit if one takes the time to read all the placards and view all the fossil displays along the way.    

Whew, I’ve seen enough for a couple of days, I’m jumping back into the hot springs one more time.

Till the next adventure come around, have a super great day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

2010-32 Billings Montana to Cody Wyoming

Billings Montana
Cody Wyoming

Campground:  Wal-Mart Super center, Billings MT. Free.  Nice parking lot set off from all the other shoppers.  Trees and grassy medians enclose our little Rv world.  Half a dozen Rv’s parked for the night.

Campground:  Wal-Mart Super Center, Cody WY.  Free.  Nice side lots.  Quite at night, security lights and camera on.  A sign at the edge of their lot has a map of the town showing campers where the nearest dump stations are.  Many Rv’s come in in the late afternoon and early evening.  Finding sites against the far side the parking lot. Even a few people who sleep in their minivans and cars.

I was all set to head out early Sunday morning from Terry Montana, it being another time zone change and I’m now in the Mountain Time zone.  I begin to close the slides on the camper.  Hmmm, the large slide is only going in on one side.  Better stop and assess the situation.  Finally one of the park owners comes over to help and we manhandle the slide by pushing the errant side in.  Only took about an hour to figure how to do it.

I drive into Billings  200 miles down the road and park at a Wal-Mart super center, since I can’t open the slide, why pay for a campsite and I‘ll be that much closer to an Rv repair center in the morning.  After a Subway sub for lunch, I decide to take a look under the camper.  That’s usually the equivalent of my looking under the hood of my truck.  Look at all those things and hoses and stuff, not having a clue as to what half of it is.  But here I am sliding under my camper and looking up at the underbelly of it.  Hmm, there’s the slide motor and lookie there, a rotating bar that connects to the other side of the slide and a bolt appears to be missing.

After a number of attempts to get the hole for the bolt to line up, running back inside the camper, touching the slide button a tad, running back outside and under the camper to see if it lined up, I finally give up.  Fortunately a fellow camper was willing to help me a bit later and presto, I fixed the slide all by myself.  Well with the help of the said camper touching the slide button in and out until I could get the hole lined up and the bolt finally slid into place.  Feels good to be able to fix something on the camper after a little bit of cogitating and tinkering.

So now here I am, with the slides out, sitting in a parking lot on the outer edge of Wal-Mart and you know, it’s not all that different than some of the paid parks I been in.  I have a fully paved site (which all full timers cherish), the sun is setting behind full sized trees that line the medians between each lot and big box store.  Shortly the parking lot lights will come on for security and I’ll bed down for the evening.

I have enough water in the holding tanks, plenty of stored solar power to run the Tv this evening and charge up the laptop and cell phone.  Life is good when I’m able to solve life’s little problems and save a few dollars as well.


Headed out the next day for Cody Wy, checked with their visitor bureau and got some good information on the local area and campgrounds.  Was going to stay at a State park about 10 miles out of town, and as I passed a local Wal-Mart, said to myself, “What the heck”  stay their for a night or three.  As the stars must have been aligned correctly for me,  the next day I decided to drive the truck over to the service bay and have an oil change.  Minutes later after the truck was in the bay, both batteries died and they discovered I was low on oil.  Yikkes, had quite a scare there.  Oddly, one of the batteries ground terminal was not connected.  When did it get disconnected and for how long?  And why?  I have no idea.  As the fates were with me, they were able to replace the two low batteries and do the oil change and all is right with the world again.

Imagine if I had decided to camp out in the State park 10 miles away.  I would most likely have been stuck and had to call for a tow, that is, if I could have even gotten a cell  signal up between the mountain ranges.  I do sometimes think I have an angel watching over me.

In between all these repairs and self help fixing of the camper, I did take in The Buffalo Bill Historical Center, one of the most impressive multi-museum/art galleries I’ve ever been to.  5 major museums all connected into one huge complex.  Firearms, Western Art, Plains Indian Peoples, Buffalo Bill and American West and Nature of Yellowstone.  Whew.  I was exhausted, but in a good way after touring the huge complex.  I’m heading out on a trolley tour of Cody and expect to get much more information on the local area and it’s history.

Learned quite a bit about buffalo Bill Cody and his starting this town.  From his huge western shows that were performed all over the country, he even took his wild west shows abroad to Europe and England.  Where even Queen Victoria, then  a recluse, came out to see his show.  When the two met, Queen Victoria bowed to Buffalo Bill.  The first time anyone in England acknowledged someone from the U.S. in that fashion.  From that point on, the healing between Britain and the U.S. began.  Imagine, a cowboy, buffalo hunter and guide to many military Generals, making friends with the Queen.  She even sent a Cherry Bar to his new hotel in Cody Wy.  And yes, I did get to see it in the Irma Hotel.  Now that’s the kind of entrepreneur spirit we need to re-develop again in  this country.  He marketed his own image, then developed the wild west shows and eventually built a town.  Even to the point of placing it near the newly created Yellowstone, which at the time only had two entrances.  He convince  the President to add a third entrance.  Guess where it came out.  Right through the new town of Cody.  He even started to develop irrigation out in this dry arid country and was instrumental in having the first big dam project built in the U.S.  Yup, the Wild Bill Dam.

Even though this town is only about 6,000 strong, it hosts over 500,000 visitors a year.  Oddly enough, there are very few if any T-shirt shops in town, but lots of western wear, western antique shops, good restaurants and lots of evening entertainment to keep someone busy for weeks.  I went into a small shop and purchased a small trinket from a man of Lebanon decent.  Interesting to talk too as he wrapped up my small purchase in leather wrapped with twine and put a small feather through it.  Saying “that’s to wish you good journeys and happiness”.   Imagine.

I drove around and saw very little in the way of poor homes.  Most are very well maintained homes and many are pretty awesome homes along the ridge overlooking the town.  It’s a town I could easily live in.

Each evening, I look out over the mountains off to the west, with the road that winds it’s way through the pass leading into Yellowstone and watch the clouds as they scurry across the sky.  The wind picks up and the sun gets lower in the sky and finally slides behind one of the mountain ranges.  Finally, with the sky turning dark, the clouds changing from white to dark gray the wind settles down for the evening as well.  A western scene that can not be reproduced anywhere but here.  The dry warm air suddenly has a chill as the heat of the day quickly evaporates as evening sets in.  A quietness envelopes everything and I feel right with the world.

So much more to share, but I’ll save it for the next rambling’s.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

2010-31 Montana


New Town ND
Watford City ND
Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North)
Terry Town Montana

Campground:  4 Bears Casino, New Town ND.  $6.76 Electric.  Parking lot.  Filled with very old campers and a few tenters.  They also have a full hookup area nearer the lake, but sites are double back sites and very crowded with many seasonal campers.  $20 per night.

Campground:  Theodore Roosevelt NP, Juniper campground.  $10 no hookups.  Water and dump station available.  Many sites are pull thru’s which is always nice.  Nice restrooms, manicured grass and treed sites.  Site #1 has elect. If you can get it.

Campground:  Small Towne Rv Park, Terry Montana.  $16 per night, full hookups.  Appox. 12 sites, half are pull thrus.  Basic in town campsites.  Park mgr and husband are very friendly and helpful with activities in the area and places to eat, etc.  Note:  Early evening hwy noise and train horns all night long.

Thru North Dakota and into Montana

North Dakota:

Traveling across prairie, I’m impressed with the number of small ponds circled with a thick band of bull rush or cottontail.  As mentioned in the last posting, the prairie’s have had much rain in the past couple of years and even though it‘s fall, the pastures are green.

I pass through Rugby and have breakfast at a local restaurant right next to the stone obelisk declaring it to be the geographical center of North America.  Imagine, in North Dakota.  But true it is.  They also have a wonderful statue of colored spires depicting the Northern Lights.  As they are very visible from this location along US 2 in North Dakota.

I drop down onto hwy 23 and pass through prairie land that is becoming more hilly.  Giving me spectacular scenery as I cross over the tops of hills and rising land before descending into the next set of rolling landscape and grass lands beyond.  I set up camp at 4 Bears Casino, a place I would only stay for one night, as it’s probably the most yucky site I’ve stayed at in ages.  I then drive back hwy 23 almost 25 miles to take pictures of the most awesome leaning barn on the prairie I’ve ever seen.  Taking easily 50 pictures of it and the old homestead.  And further down the road a lone white building that used to be a Twl Hall?  Stunning vistas that one just has to see in person to believe.

one of my favorite shots of the season

My destination is the T Roosevelt NP that covers much of the western side of ND.  This is home to Pronghorn, wild horses, Buffalo, White tail and mule deer and Elk.  I had to stop on the scenic road as a herd of buffalo decided to camp out on the road.  Making low guttural noises and eyeing we tourists taking tons of pictures of these massive beasts weighing up to 2,000 lbs.

The park is part of the ND badlands, where the prairie suddenly is transformed by deep gashes of natures own handy work, erosion.  Wild rock formations along the Little Missouri River provide a dramatic landscape that seems to drop out of nowhere from the grass lands that surround it.  Small boulders dot the prairie landscape having been transported over 400 miles, the only signs of the final edge of an ice age and it’s leading edge of glaciers before they receded back into Canada and further north over 10,000 years ago.  I wonder if Canada would like to have their rocks back?

Misc. notes:

All the barns in North Dakota are painted a traditional bright red with crisp white trim.  Farmhouses are always painted white.  The older ones, that have not been taken care of, have the paint blasted off by the harsh wind and blowing snows during the harsh winters.

The landscape has a soft look to it.  As even the low hills are covered in grasses, giving the landscape with it’s faded shades of muted greens, light yellows to almost white, at times, a feeling of soft moss or velvet.
The sky is huge.

Sunlight and clouds race across the vast landscape creating patterns of light and shadow.

In the town of Watford, the local museum has the original noose used in the last lynching in the state, back in 1931.  The town of approx. 5,500 has remained almost the same in size for it’s entire existence.
 Teddy Roosevelt had a ranch for a few years on the same land that the T Roosevelt NP now stands.  It is where he began his love affair with the west and developed a keen desire to preserve portions of it for the whole country.

In New Town, the Three Tribes Indian museum, they’re life is chronicled through picture and stories.  It begins with stories of tribe members remembering the Lewis and Clark expedition and Sacajawea and then proceeds to the most heart wrenching account being the decimation of the three tribes in 1935 by small pox.  Over 90% of the native plains Indians died.  One of the last Indian tribes to succumb to the western diseases as until the early 1800s they had been well isolated from the rest of the country.


edge of the Bad Lands, Eastern Montana

The next day I head out and take an alternate route as there is heavy road construction just south of the National park entrance.  Didn’t do me any good as I got lost on the back country roads, at one point ending up on a dirt road through more gorgeous rolling hill and prairie country.  Back tracking, I miss another turn but finally get on the right road heading SW into Montana.  But things aren’t so clear after all.  Along with intermittent rain and heavy winds, the road ahead has heavy construction and I’m forced onto a muddy dirt road for a couple of miles.  So all that effort to avoid it didn’t pay off in the end.  Guess I need to chalk it up to just one of those days.

While stopped at one of the rest areas, I whipped out my handy dandy Don Wright’s Guide to FREE campgrounds.  It also contains many that charge, but are low cost.  Found one in Terry MT and with it being only about another 15 miles down Interstate 94, I headed right for it.  I could have stayed at the city’s campground for free (no hookups), but opted to stay at the Small Towne Rv Park for $16 a night, just to have elect.  I’ve gotten spoiled with full hookups.  Besides I’m doing pretty well on cost savings this month.

Evelyn took many pictures with wolves in her pictures

The park owner loans me a DVD of Evelyn Cameron’s life, “Pictures from a worthy Life”, a PBS special.  The story of a English Lady who along with her husband came to explore the west and fell in love with Montana.  She eventually became a photographer along with running the ranch and her life is chronicled through her 35 years of diaries and thousands of glass plate negatives and photographs.  They lived in this small town of Terry Montana (pop. 600) and the town now has an entire museum devoted to her photography.  A great story and wonderful images of the west.  Later I would tour the museum and photo gallery and hear tons of stories about living out west.

A self portrait

With a little effort, one can find great stories in small towns.  Maybe even take in a local football game and get a free hamburger, chips and soda as well.

Please note, many additional pictures on my Picasa Web site.

Friday, September 3, 2010

2010-30 North Dakota

North Dakota

Devils Lake

Campground:  Dry Lake Campground. $18 (I got a deal and paid $15) full hookups.  A small country campground with only 12 campsites plus tent sites.

Here’s another of those odd situations where I travel from one state, Minnesota, into North Dakota and not just the scenery changes, but the weather.  I woke up to a balmy 76 degrees in Mahnomen MN, started driving to the boarder as the temperature started to drop.  By the time I got to the ND boarder the temperature was down to 68 degrees and very breezy.  Kind of chilly with only a pair of shorts and a T-shirt on.

The breeze picked up to a steady wind and the fog rolled in, then out again.  The camper traveled well in gusts up to 35 mph and the mileage went from 13 mpg down to 10 mpg.  I arrived in the Devils Lake area and set up in a quick wet shower.  Darn my timing was off by just 10 minutes.

I woke up the next morning to a breezy 57 degrees.  Did I mention we had a severe storm last night.  I thought at one point the camper was going to slide down the hill right into Dry lake… which isn’t dry at all.  Amazing what ones imagination can conjure up.

I’ll be here in the Devils Lake area for about a week mainly due to the upcoming Labor Day holiday.  The only time I have difficulty getting a specific campsite is usually due to holiday weekends, so it’s easier to just hunker down where ever I am until after the holiday is over with.  I’m surrounded by large prairie farms and the campground I’m in is surrounded by these farms and boarders the lake.  Black cows graze on grass between the fence and the lake.  Mooing as they move from one section to the next. Sparrows swoop in and around the campground in big swarms diving and circling in crazy patterns.

The owner had to move a mama cat and her three, week old kittens, to the barn.  The cutest little kittens I’ve ever seen, one tabby, one black one with a strip right down it’s forehead and nose and an all black one.  So small they could fit in a tea cup.

I visited Sully Hills National Game Preserve.  Perhaps one of the smallest parks I’ve visited.  It contains buffalo, elk and a prairie dog village.  Huge 12 foot fences keep the large wildlife in.  Protected in their small world of forest, grassland and lake.  I was able to view about a dozen buffalo and the prairie dogs.  The Elk were elusive the day I went through the 4 mile loop road.

This is my very first time in the state of North Dakota and I’m finding out that they have had a ton of rain over the past couple of years.  Many of the large farms are soaked through and can hardly handle any more water.  The small campground I’m in is on the highest ground in the county, probably only about 50 to 75 feet higher than the surrounding area.  The long straight single lane dirt roads between farms are well maintained except for the ones close to hwy 2.  Where so many have been flooded out forcing road closures.  I have to drive two miles around the area to get to the campsite.  Devils Lake, which is the largest natural lake in ND is 25 feet higher than normal.  They are in the process of rebuilding many of the roads around the lake.  Raising them even higher.  Boulders and rocks now line the lake front to protect the roads and shoreline from washing away.  When I drove around the east side of the lake the other day, the wind was whipping up waves that were crashing over the highway.  The road barely being a foot or two above the lake.  Everyone drove single file slowly across the narrow winding land bridge to the other side.

That’s about it from one of America’s bread basket communities on a Labor Day weekend.  No real fun activities to go to this weekend.  Cooler weather, highs today should be around 65 if we’re lucky.  But lots of time to enjoy a good book snuggled up inside my camper with the occasional trip into town for lunch and a bit of  shopping.  Enjoy your holiday and be safe where ever you journey.